1. Ski hill updates in Quebec and British Columbia
This winter, ski and snowboard aficionados will have plenty of new hill features to look forward to, including new quad chairlifts at Quebec’s Stoneham Ski Resort (about a half hour from Quebec City) and at Whitewater Ski Resort, 20 minutes southeast of Nelson, B.C. Meanwhile, Red Mountain Resort in Rossland, B.C., is opening its first ski in/ski out hotel, The Josie. The 106-suite hotel, set to open late January, will feature a restaurant with a bar and lounge, a spa, hot tubs and an outdoor pool.
2. European holiday markets
Giant Christmas trees, merry carollers, steaming cups of cider—you’ll find all that and more at European holiday markets across Canada. From Dec. 7 to 10, experience the magic of Christmas at the Christkindl Market in Kitchener, Ont. Now in its 21st year, this German-inspired market features dancers, choirs and vendors selling German food, toys and more. Across the country, sip on Glühwein and nosh on chimney cakes at the Vancouver Christmas Market (Nov. 22 to Dec. 24) in Jack Poole Plaza.
3. Fresh views from the new Peak Suspension Bridge in Whistler
One of the most buzz-worthy new additions to a Canadian ski hill this winter is the Peak Suspension Bridge at B.C.’s Whistler Blackcomb. Slated to open in December, this 130-metre, mid-air bridge stretches across the Whistler Bowl, connecting the West Ridge to Whistler Peak. If you’re brave enough to traverse the bridge, your reward is stunning, 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains from the new cantilevered viewing deck on the West Ridge.
4. Nordic Spas
The luxury of lounging in a heated outdoor pool at a Nordic spa is best experienced in the winter. For an authentic Scandinavian bath that will get your blood pumping, visit one of Scandinave Spa’s four locations in Whistler, Montreal (indoor facilities only), Mont-Tremblant, Que., or The Blue Mountains, Ont. Wellness-seekers can book a spa treatment and then cycle through a series of hot and cold treatments in the form of a sauna, cold plunge bath and outdoor hot pool.
5. Seasonal foodie events
Many of Canada’s most notable culinary events happen in the winter. This year marks the 29th anniversary of Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge’s annual Christmas in November (Nov. 3 to 12), which highlights the best of holiday entertaining, dining and drinking with celebrity chefs, culinary classes and other events. In Winnipeg, some of Canada’s best chefs come together for pop-up restaurant RAW:almond on the Red and Assiniboine rivers for three weeks, starting in late January (weather depending).
6. Ice castles and sculptures
Art takes on an icy form in winter, as ice sculptures and attractions pop up across the country. International ice artists will converge at Lake Louise’s annual Ice Magic Festival (Jan. 18 to 28) to carve out sculptures of dragons, Canadian animals and more. On an even bigger scale, after two successful years in Edmonton, the hugely popular Ice Castles attraction is also setting up in Winnipeg. Built beside the city’s Red River, this giant structure features tens of thousands of icicles.
7. Winter patios
Patios aren’t just for summer anymore—more and more Canadian restaurants and bars are embracing year-round outdoor dining. As winter approaches, Toronto’s Drake Hotel encloses part of its Sky Yard rooftop patio, adds heat lamps and redecorates the space with a new theme. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Café Bicyclette, located in the French Quarter, eschews enclosures on its patio entirely, opting for a fully alfresco dining experience surrounded by snow, wood-burning fireplaces and cozy red blankets.
8. Outdoor skating rinks
Some of the best outdoor skating rinks can be found right in the middle of major Canadian cities. Ottawa’s scenic Rideau Canal Skateway, the biggest skating rink in the world, has five rest stops, complete with firepits and concession stands, and four BeaverTails pastry stands sprinkled along the way. Over in Halifax, you can rent skates and sledges (a type of sled) for free at the outdoor Emera Oval, Atlantic Canada’s biggest artificially refrigerated ice rink.
9. Winter festivals return
Winter festivals celebrate the best things about Canada’s coldest season. Ottawa’s Winterlude festival (Feb. 2 to 19) turns 40 in 2018 and will transform the city into a winter wonderland complete with ice sculptures, snow mazes, ice dragon boat racing and more. And at Quebec City’s Carnaval de Québec (Jan. 26 to Feb. 11), one of the world’s biggest winter festivals, expect family-friendly activities such as nighttime parades, sugar shacks and plenty of Bonhomme sightings.
10. Quebec’s Ice Hotel
Winter is the only time you can experience the magic of staying in a building made of ice. From January to March, book a room at the Hôtel de Glace, Canada’s only ice hotel. Located just outside Quebec City, the 44-room hotel is rebuilt each winter with ice and snow and has an average indoor temperature of -5°C. Rooms come equipped with a Nordic sleeping bag, a mattress and pillows on top of an ice bed frame; the hotel also has its own ice bar.